Light up the night.
Big Bang Mini is a dazzling, tightly focused shoot-'em-up that contains all the fun of zipping off fireworks and none of the risk of blowing off your thumbs. If you've ever let your mind drift at a Fourth of July fireworks display and pictured aiming Roman candles at cats or birds, you should either seek psychological evaluation or just pick up this game to get your evil kicks.
[image1]Like most shooters, there's no plot to explain why you need to use the power of fireworks to shoot cuddly cartoon animals, or why your character is a sentient ball of light with an endless supply of bottle rockets. But the randomness of the level and enemy design is part of the game's charm - you can never expect what will be thrown at you next.
Big Bang's game mechanics are incredibly simple and use only the touch-screen. Like striking a match, you lightly flick the stylus in the direction you want to send your fireworks flying. While you can shoot from anywhere on the lower screen, you have to drag and drop your little glowing orb out of harm's way separately, which means you can't move and shoot at the same time. When dozens of brightly-colored particles come raining down on you in later stages, this becomes a tough (but rarely frustrating) balancing act.
At first, you'll start the game with just the ability to send up fireworks, but later you're granted various types of shields, homing missiles, and powerful charge shots. Over the course of nine levels with ten brief stages each, you'll gain and lose abilities depending on the mission.
[image2]A deflector shield to block incoming bullets is only available in one level, while another gives you the ability to briefly stop time with a stroke of the stylus. While it would have been nice to continually gain abilities through to the end, these changes emphasize the game's insane variety and prevent you from becoming too comfortable with any one strategy.
Matching the shifts in gameplay are some clever visual effects and different styles of background music. The levels are based around different cities, with themes like a superhero battle in New York City, Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, and Dance Dance Revolution rhythms in Rio de Janeiro. Different visual styles from cel-shading to pixel art accompany each new location, and some of these are simply gorgeous.
Each stage ends with a basic connect-the-dots bonus round, but even these become much tougher later on as new twists are added. For example, one round forces you to connect the dots while avoiding rotating death beams.
[image3]Beating all of these bonus rounds unlocks a useless "relax mode", which just shows off the game's variety of fireworks. The payoff for beating these bonus stages may be a letdown, but at least they provide a different type of challenge from the usual shooting and evading. Also, the "mission mode" that is unlocked by beating the main game is ridiculously hard—it's for masochistic shooter experts only.
Amazingly, Big Bang Mini manages to feel fast-paced and unique throughout, unlike most shooters which can become tiresome through constant repetition. Although it's not as challenging as Geometry Wars, it still has the creativity of a game like Everyday Shooter with the bizarre sense of humor of the WarioWare games.
It's great to play a shooter that contains more than just planes, tanks, and machine guns. The fireworks theme gives the game an excuse to take you around the world, celebrating local cultures with glittery explosions, while still granting you the rare opportunity to blast a hole in a flying squid.